From September 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, with the support of the Government of the Netherlands, carried out monitoring of a number of Armenian and Russian media. The study was aimed at identifying pieces discrediting the European values through various propaganda methods. The monitoring consisted of two stages. The first stage was conducted from September 1 to December 31, 2019, and an interim report was prepared and published based on its results, the second – from January 1 to April 30, 2020. The current report provides data for the entire monitoring period.
The monitoring covered 13 media – 5 TV companies (including one Russian TV channel – “RTR-Planeta”, which through terrestrial broadcasting covers the whole territory of Armenia), 3 national newspapers and 5 online portals (one of them is Russian “Sputnik Armenia”, which creates content in Armenian). The Armenian media were selected in a way that, where possible, media affiliated with various political forces be represented. Hence, in case of newspapers, the monitoring included pro-government “Haykakan Zhamanak” and two openly opposition ones – “Iravunk” and “Hraparak”. As for the TV companies, in addition to the Public Television of Armenia and the Russian “RTR-Planeta”, the programmes (main news programmes, as well as subsequent current affairs programmes) of three more broadcast media were studied – “5th Channel”, “Yerkir Media”, “Kentron”, the first of which is affiliated with the RA second President Robert Kocharyan, and the other two with ARF “Dashnaktsutyun” and Prosperous Armenia parties respectively. By the same principle, taking into account different political orientations, the monitoring included the following online media: “Tert.am”, “1in.am”, “24news.am”, “News.am”, “Sputnik Armenia”.
Since there are multiple methods of propaganda, within the frames of the monitoring they are divided into the following conditional categories (they can be manifested both separately and in combination):
1) various forms of manipulation (juggling and/or distortion of facts, biased commenting, references to a non-existent source of information, etc.);
2) use of hate speech on different thematic categories: national, political, social, religious, racial, etc.;
3) use of negative stereotypes and clichés.
The monitoring results indicate that the coverage of the European theme by the media studied is mostly neutral or positive. Negative pieces make up a very small portion – only 0.6% of the total number of publications related to Europe and Europeans. But at the same time monitoring made it possible to identify the following trends:
- The largest number of pieces discrediting the European values was recorded in print media – 161 or 53.5% of the total number of pieces containing propaganda elements. Television companies and online media have 94 (31.2%) and 46 (15.3%) pieces, respectively.
- Among the propaganda techniques used, biased commenting on events and phenomena is the most common. Most often it is used by journalists (46%), experts/public figures (31%) and politicians (12%). Other categories of authors resort to it significantly less often. The second most common technique of information manipulation is the distortion of facts. References to anonymous (presumably non-existent) sources, the spread of hate speech and negative stereotypes are used less than the first two.
- The analysis of monitoring data by type of media showed that in terms of the number of resorting to various propaganda techniques journalists are ahead of representatives of the other categories of authors only in print media. Here, the staff of the newspapers account for about 74% of biased comments, distorted facts, negative stereotypes about Europe and Europeans.
- In contrast to print media, in terms of the number of using propaganda techniques in their comments on television, journalists were surpassed by experts/public figures by more than 2 times. It is noteworthy that in the broadcast media, invited experts/public figures used expressions discrediting the European values more than all the other categories of authors combined.
- In online media, in terms of the number of biased comments, use of negative stereotypes and distorted facts journalists were surpassed by nearly 2 times not only by experts/public figures, but also politicians, and by officials – 1.5 times. In general, the last three categories of authors account for over 78% of the use of propaganda techniques.
- During the monitoring, leaders were identified in terms of the number of pieces having an anti-European focus. Among the newspapers this is “Iravunk”, among television companies – “RTR-Planeta”, among online media – “News.am”.
- In terms of content, during the first stage of monitoring, the main topic that gave rise to publications discrediting the European values was the possible ratification of the Istanbul Convention by Armenia. At the second stage of the study, which coincided with the spread of coronavirus, the main topic was the pandemic. Even the forced measures taken by the EU countries (in particular, the closure of borders) were presented by some media as rejection of the European values and the collapse of the EU.
The views expressed in the publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Dutch government.